Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Might I have a bit of earth?

I have never had a garden before.
As a child and teenager, my parents often had a garden, but using a combination of whining and allergies - I never really had to participate in yard work.
Sometimes, I'd weed. But even then, our garden was really only a "salsa garden" (although, I'm not totally positive that's true. Again, I did very little in the garden) - but we had tomatos, peppers, herbs. Not much else.
Since my adulthood, I've lived in dorms, teeny apartments, yardless houses, and did I mention that I have two-year old twins?
We never lived anywhere long enough to plant roots (or any plants, for that matter.) And when we did... I had two newborns to take care of.
But now that my children are practically raised, and we have a sunny backyard and a downstairs neighbor with a planter box and half-a-dozen herbs from last summer... I'm ready. I'm doing it.

I am totally, head-over-heels in love with the idea of gardening.
Growing my own food? Check. Sounds amazing.
Understanding and relating to my environment and the seasons? Yes, please. SO Little House.
Staying close to the soil? I have it on good authority that it's good for the soul. *

I think having a garden might be a bit like being pregnant. Growing and tending something small and helpless, nourishing it and loving it. Sometimes, it's hard work, and sometimes it's just lying in sunshine reading aloud to yourself. And seasons come and things change slowly, until one day everything looks totally different than it did before. And a little while after that, you have something perfect and beautiful, that you can look at and say, "I made this. I grew it."
Growing things seems so very wholesome, be they babies or bell peppers.

And it's spring. And even though I've been flipping through seed catalogs and rereading all my hoarded copies of March and April Martha Stewart Living, it turns out: I have no idea what I'm doing.

And I would love any tips that you have for first time gardeners. And, I have some ridiculous questions that I could easily Google, but would apparently rather share - so you can all understand just how garden-clueless I am.


With root-vegetables, like carrots and potatoes: Do you get exactly as many veggies as seeds you plant? Like, if I plant 16 carrot seeds, am I only going to get 16 carrots? Because that's what it seems like, but we LOVE carrots here.  16 carrots is not enough to provide for my family.

And is that the same with all root veggies? Beets, garlic, etc? It just doesn't seem like root-plants yield enough! We go through 2-3 heads of garlic a week, and 4-5 potatoes at one meal!

Do we need all new dirt? Our downstairs neighbors have a planter box from last year, and are planning on replacing most of the dirt soil. Seriously? I know some dirt is more nutritious  but if we fertilize it or whatever, shouldn't that be alright? Is the dirt ruined because it's already been planted in?

Okay, how does broccoli work? I understand that if I plant lettuce or celery or something, I can just pull off a bit and let it keep growing (or wait... do I have to replant spinach every time I want a whole head?) but we eat a whole head of broccoli at a time. Do I plant and grow broccoli (and other plants like it) and tend it for weeks (or months?) and only get to eat broccoli once all summer?

Also, clearly I don't know: how long do plants take to be ready to eat? I know a vine fruit like tomatoes or peppers could produce all summer, but lots of other things seem like a one-time deal. Do we have to wait until September and then suddenly, all we can eat the rest of the month is beets and potatoes?

Seriously, people. Help your garden-variety idiot.

And lastly, I read this beautiful quote recently, and then spent about an hour searching the internet to verify that it's a real quote. And it totally is.

"Where you have a plot of land, however small, plant a garden. Staying close to the soil is good for the soul."

Spencer W. Kimball (prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.) So that's official, people. The prophet said to plant a garden, so that's what we'll do.

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Aimee said...

Oh my gosh, this is so fun! We did a garden last year for the first time and loved it. And we're of course doing one again. We have 8 planter boxes though, so quite a bit of space! But I read online that if you just chop the head of broccoli off it will regrow another head, and we're trying broccoli this year, and hopefully that's true. Of course tomatoes are ripe at different times, but you still might get a lot at one time too. But the little tomatoes can stay on the plant or in a bowl off the plant for a few days before getting squish. We also had peppers and those ripened at different times too thoughout, fyi. Umm, lets see squash, and cucumbers will have fruit throughout the season. And herbs of course will grow throughout the season as well, just be careful not to let them go to seed too quickly.

Aimee said...

Also, you do not need all new dirt, okay. So some vegetable plants will leave the dirt with more or less acidity than your new plants might need. And some vegetables strip nutrients from the soil. But just get some fertilizer stuff, or compost and mix it in and I think you should be good.

Aimee said...

Also if you are planting with seeds they should say when to plant, and I think the packets usually say how long till germination or something. And I also like this chart to know when to plant everything! http://www.thegardencentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/growing-vegetables-chart.jpg

I'm so excited for you!

Carin said...

Find a good nursery (NOT Lowe's or Home Depot, but an actually dedicated nursery) near your house and start asking questions. Start with just a couple types (2-3) of veggies this year to build confidence. Start with zucchini because that is no fail. Start with actual (small) plants that you transfer, not seeds.

We live in Los Angeles and started experimenting with vegetables in summer 2011. We've never done root vegetables (too much of a mystery) or broccoli but we had MAD SUCCESS the first year with a few different types of zucchini. Just a few plants had us in zucchini ALL SUMMER LONG. Planted in late April or early May I think?

We just used the dirt in our yard, but I think my husband also added some additional dirt on top of it, and/or ground cover (mulch) to keep the water in because it never rains here. Also safe-to-consume fertilizer. (Again, check with the nursery people to find out which mulch and which fertilizer). You do not have to replant a whole head of spinach or other leafy vegetables every time. We pick off leaves daily for salads. We have spinach, arugula, mustard greens, and green leaf lettuce for variety. Also, arugula grows like mad, which is great because it's so expensive in the store. Lettuces in Southern California are a "winter" vegetable meaning it's nearly time to say goodbye, but I'm guessing Utah is different as far as what is seasonal to grow when.

Reiterating: we don't start with seeds, never ever. We start with tiny plants.

Also, talk to the nursery about when to let things flower vs. not flower. Just like herbs, there are some vegetables that you want to prevent from flowering because all the plant energy goes into blooming the flower instead of growing the fruit. Zucchini is the opposite I think though. You want to let it flower? It differs plant by plant.

Things we have had success with since that first zucchini year: bell peppers, snap peas, arugula, green leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, artichokes. Things not as successful - tomatoes (get eaten by ?, and when they aren't eaten, they just aren't that tasty), strawberries (get eaten by tiny slugs, also not especially tasty).

p.s. Watch out for those zucchinis. They hide under the huge leaves and then one day you see them and they are massive. As they get larger, they lose taste.

Suki said...

I am a first-time gardener too :)
Just started an indoor garden with herbs, strawberries and blueberries.
I have no clue myself so I am no good for answering any of your questions.
What helped me is, pinning loads of pins on pinterest because people of the internet seem to be very smart.
If you plan to start planting seeds you could start them in self-watering seed starters made out of old plastic bottles.
It actually works and they grow all by themselves.
Here's the link:


Hope smart people stop by to help you with your questions :)


Teeners said...

I don't know much about gardening, but here are some places to start: http://www.smartgardener.com/?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email
and it's free
K, this website is from a guy that my family knows. He is in charge of the garden that is GOD'S REVENGE at Hogle Zoo. We got some fertilizer from him last year, and HOLY SMOKES! The stuff really does work! http://growfood.com/

Hope that helps!

Lana said...

Spinach does not grow in "heads". It's just leaves that grow out of the ground. Broccoli can yield maybe three heads a season, but you can plant them in spring and fall. and broccoli takes more space than you can imagine. carrots = one carrot per seed, potatoes = a billion potatoes per seed, but they also take a lot of space. with carrots you can make four rows of 10. plant them two weeks apart. once you pull up one row, replant in that row. you'll continue to have carrots boundlessly. if you plant more than one zucchini you will hate your life and zucchini ever after. you will have baseball bat sized squash that you just dont know what to do with. go to a nursery. talk to the most knowledgeable person there, bring a planner, ask when to plant certain things, and when to fertilize and when to prune. FOLLOW the directions on seed packets, buy bigger plants as seedlings, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc.

Betsy Hite Reddoch said...

We had a small garden in our yard for the first time last year. We grew zucchini and summer squash (two plants each from seeds) We got too much harvest from those plants so we're just doing one each this year. We also did cucumbers (from seedlings) and 3 varieties of tomatoes (from seedlings) that grew awesomely until late September or October. We also planted strawberries, but those don't give fruit the first year. Good luck!

Amanda said...

Yay! Gardens! My husband does all the gardening around here, but I can give you some imput. Here is what we currently have: beans, snow peas, perpetual spinach (this will grow ALL YEAR!! You cut down to the end of the leaf, and it'll regrow), carrots, broccolli, blueberries, strawberries, onions, kale, chives, garlic chives, garlic, chillis, zucchinni, potatoes, pumpkin, watermelon, basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, grapefruit, pomegranate, squash, cucumbers olives, pear, figs, passionfruit, lemon, lime, horseradish and more I can't remember. I'm not trying to brag, I just wanted to show you what you can do!!! We only started 1.5 years ago!!

We have started everything from seed (minus the olive trees and grapfruit). Even though we had success with that, maybe try both seed and small plant. You can learn how things grow with the seeds, but watch them sooner with the plants! Once you start getting into it, save money by not going to the nursery as much as sometimes they can be ridiculously over priced. We buy a lot of our seeds from farmers markets and online.

There are loads of resources online to find out when everything will need to be planted and grown. See if you can find a calendar so that you can plan ahead! I would give you ours, but we're in Australia, so I feel it might be a little off! Once you get into the rhythm of planting, you can plan to have things finish growing at the same time that compliment each other!

Good luck!

Sarah said...

I AM SOOOOOO INCREDIBLY JEALOUS. Seriously. I have hopes and dreams of getting a garden in this year, however, currently my yard is buried under at least four feet of snow and the temps are not predicted to be above twenty in at least the next ten days. DARN northern Minnesota!

Enjoy for me please!

Polly said...

you should check out stuff like this